Advice on 37 hour train ride

#1 Sep 29th, 2006, 22:56
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Jul 2006
Boston, MA
  • corinnbritt is offline
Hello, has anyone taken the Gangakaveri Express train from Varanasi to Chennai? If running on schedule, it should take about 37 hours. If not, who knows!
My travel partner and I don't want to spend the money to fly, but we're both a little anxious about spending 2 days on a train in India. Any experience with this (good, bad, tollerable)?
#2 Sep 29th, 2006, 23:13
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Sep 2004
Vancouger, BC
  • agoraphobe is offline
I didn't go that exact route but have had 30+ hour train rides. Make sure you both get the upper berths so you can sleep when you want or just retreat in the middle of the day to read. Trains stop routinely for 5-10 mins, make sure you get out once and a while, drink some tea, pick-up a paper, eat some vada pao. 3-tier non-ac is more lively.
#3 Sep 29th, 2006, 23:16
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Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline
Hmmm. Don't ask me what the train was called nor what route it followed, just a little anecdote. This was early '90s:

I had meant to go from Chennai to Kolkata (or Calcutta, at the time ) It being Christmas the trains were all booked full. Since I was planning Kolkata-Varanasi I figured I'd do it the other way around. Chennai-Varanasi direct was also booked full, but there was another train taking an inland route involving 1 change of trains. So off we went, me and the couple I had hooked up with.

In Tamil Nadu I had noticed things getting "chilly" with temperatures dropping to something like 22C. Shirt weather! On the first day in the train up north I noticed people around me diligently knitting sweaters and hats and whatnot, I made some funny comments about it in a letter to friends I was writing, saying these Indians must be crazy, they think winter's coming on.

I think it was probably the second (middle of the) night when our train made an unexpected stop and we had to make another (unannounced) change of trains. As it happened this was packed out so we ended up in unreserved class -- which was likewise packed out (think treading carefully so as not to step on anyone). Being a whitey someone got up to offer me his sleeping berth, no little to my shame but an appealing gesture at ca. 03:00 nonetheless, so I accepted after a little bit of this and that. Some time later I woke up having to take a leak; on my return, sure enough my place had been taken by another person, who wasn't about to wake up to my gentle prodding and whispered pleas.

So I ended up sitting by an open window with no place to put up my feet owing to the other seat being occupied, noticing a marked drop in temperatures. Putting on everything I had with me (something like two trousers, shirt + sweater + tails, socks and whatnot) I still couldn't stop shivering (in fact come daytime in the blazing heat it still took me till about 2 pm to heat up again. The papers later indicated it had been 7C or so at the time -- I imagine quite a bit colder in a moving train with no windows. I can honestly say I've seldom felt so miserable in my life.) I finally snuggled up with one of my friends under his sleeping bag -- he likewise had just a window seat but at least with the other seat being unoccupied (had he had a berth like my other friend however, I'd have been up shit creek, those berths barely accomodate 1 person) -- and sort of sang it out. Needless to say, I had always laughed at them for carrying a sleeping bag to begin with.

What had been supposed to be two days turned out to be almost three as the train halted on the outskirts of Varanasi for no apparent reason. More and more people got off to go about their ways, and we strongly considered following their lead. Just we had no idea how far it was to town, leaving us open to getting fleeced by any rickshaw driver who would have us, not to mention the prospect of the train setting off again the moment we stepped off. As it was, we were stuck for several hours there, no food or drinks in sight either. (For some reason of course while refreshments are always sold on any Indian train station, somehow they hadn't been on any of the stations we'd passed that morning either.)

The moral of it all: You'll survive. You'll also get an insight as to the limits of your patience though

Bon voyage, hey 37 hours is a piece of cake

Ah needless to say first thing I did in Varanasi was buy me a blanket, and pronto.
Last edited by machadinha; Oct 8th, 2006 at 18:47..
#4 Sep 30th, 2006, 00:03
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Oct 2004
Chennai, India
  • Nick-H is offline
I don't think I could stand it.

But there a many people to whom it would be the highlight of, if not the very reason for, the trip!
Life gets aadhar every day.
#5 Sep 30th, 2006, 00:35
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Sep 2005
Abode of Glooscap
  • PeakXV is offline
1,000,000 cups of chai on the wall, a million cups of chai .... you take one down and pass it around ... 999,999 cups of chai on the wall. 999,999 cups of chai on the wall .....
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot
#6 Sep 30th, 2006, 00:52
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Jul 2002
the Netherlands
  • cyberhippie is offline
Hmm your first long distance train journey and what a whopper!!

First up, most expresses running on India's rail network don't do too bad, weather permitting they run pretty much on time but there are I suppose exceptions just be aware there's no certainty either way!!
So you get stuck on a 37 hour train journey that turns into........hours!!

Ghat to do??

This long distance train travel requires patience, planning and a certain state of mind.

I remember winding myself up in the "early days" clock watching and cursing every mysterious halt!! Caught out with no mineral water, longing for something other than chicoo, cutlets or Dal

If you get on the train, you're comitted, the journey will take
as long as takes from start to finish, so what you do with your time should be planned in some fashion, or at least a few ideas bandied around.

First of all it's really handy to have at least one top bunk on the train (the top bunk is the only place to get horizontal during the daylight hours) a great way of killing time and resting your bum, is to get up on the top bunk and grab a nap!!
If you just have the one top berth, you can share sleeping time if your travelling with someone else. Also it's common practise to have people ask if they can use your bunk for some sleep! I always let them but it's not impolite to say NO!

Get yourself organised with entertaiment for the trip, whatever you usually do? Grab a handfull of English language newspapers, magazines..Outlook, India Today, Chip, some books,

Get your music sorted out for the trip, batteries if needed, nice way to pass an hour or two.
I also know someone who has E-books on CD (you can load them onto mp3 players too) listen to the dulcet tones Hopkins reading Dickens??
Handheld games are available on almost every train it seems, mindless and absorbing for only 75 rupees.
These are usually to be found draped around some unfortunate sales person, along with blow up pillows, playing cards and "paper soap" in second class anyway! or indeed on the platform!

For me the biggest part of telescoping a long journey into a managable pleasant journey is your fellow passegers!! Through all the classes you'll generally be welcomed by your travel companions, they'll settle their part of the space, ask questions, venture opinions, laugh, giggle feed you all day, give you wonderful insights into the local demeanour and if you enter into the spirit of things, will make what seemed on paper a tiresome amount of time spent on a train, into another memory you will take from India!
Of course it always helps to have some conversation openers!

Here's some ideas

Indian Cricket

Sharuk Khan


Mittal Steel

The number zero


Gandhi Ji

There will nearly always be an invite forthcoming as well

A few packets of biscuits, some fruit, chocolate, spiced peanuts whatever you can bring with you that won't spoil in the heat will be welcome.
Platform food is varied but it's nice to have a stash of goodies should the mood arise!!
And make sure you've always got plenty bottles of water squirreled away, that's a godsend on a late train!

Don't worry though, one thing is for sure you will never starve on a Indian train, sometimes the food is great but mostly it's simple fill you up big shakes at all!
Although I've been suprised at the level of "mass cuisine" more than once on the trains of India!

Lastly but not leastly, just gaze at the world as it passes you bye, it's not any faster than you average "action Movie" and a lot more interesting!!

Some tools of the trade would include a sleeping bag, or duvet cover, bedding is provided in AC but not the lower classes, a pair of slippers or flip flops for the midnight trip to the bog, a torch, washbag ready to hand and If you're on the top bunk a case for your eye glasses as there's no where to put them!! A light cotton cloth or lunghi is great as well. Since it offsets the onset of symboism between upholstery on IR seats and your backside
It also serves as a great serviette, and avoids the worst of the colour clashes of Dal and whatever you are wearing!!

Enjoy your mammoth train journey and I hope I gave you some ideas and comfort!! Trust me you'll look back with fondness and pride!!

Happy Travelling
#7 Sep 30th, 2006, 00:53
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Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline

Thumbs up

Originally Posted by PeakXV 1,000,000 cups of chai on the wall, a million cups of chai .... you take one down and pass it around ... 999,999 cups of chai on the wall. 999,999 cups of chai on the wall .....
#8 Sep 30th, 2006, 01:22
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Mar 2005
Illinois-New Mexico-India
  • Sama is offline
I've only taken 2 train trips, and the longer one was only 17 hours, but believe it or not, I meditated and did some yoga (more than once)!
My India Photos, 2005-2017
" any means necessary." Malcolm X
#9 Sep 30th, 2006, 01:33
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Sep 2005
Abode of Glooscap
  • PeakXV is offline
Meditate, medicate, or vegetate pretty well sums it ... once you hit the wall and/or the 24th hour (which ever comes first) on the great indian railway. I did Bangalore/Bhopal once ... think it was 32 hours ..... all I wanted was a hot shower, a cold beer and a big pillow for my stiff neck.
#10 Sep 30th, 2006, 02:06
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Sep 2005
  • alext is offline
I do really well on long trip once I pass a certain threshold. My body and mind just seem to fall into a state of acceptance. That said, my longest train trip was 30 hours Jaipur to Goa (or wait was it Jaipur or ... I forget... but 30 hours anyway).

For me it was no problem. The Indians in my compartment were extremely gracious, friendly (if not quiet!) and so relaxed that I ended up feeling very relaxed as well. No one complained in the slightest about anything and that made such a difference. If it wasn't Indians in there I think I would have popped.

All good advice above. I would reinforce the idea of bringing some snacks and bottled water. Sometimes there are dry spells where what you need is not available for whatever reason and having your own makes a significant difference.
#11 Sep 30th, 2006, 02:20
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Aug 2006
  • fsg is offline
you missed out the beloved Ambani lot, feuding brothers of Reliance fame.

Once you are on the train and on your way, its like an escalator go with it, and as you say enjoy the trip.

I was on a Rajhdani which was delayed by a derailment up th eline.

Had booked the DEL hotel previously, could not contact by phone as the mob signal did not exist, so arrived 12 hours late, the room had gone ,BUT they phoned another nearby hotel and took us round there............ that is service.
I now keep a list of hotels who provide I trust. There are many out there.
#12 Sep 30th, 2006, 03:14
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Feb 2005
On the road...
  • TimMakins is offline
The list-wallahs have forgotten to mention THE most important resource to take on a long train journey: plenty of small change. A pocket full of coins are useful, and plenty of small-value notes. Why ? because whenever the train stops and you want to buy something, like a snack or a drink or a newspaper, no one ever has any change. The chai-wallahs don't have change. The meal guys don't have change. Only the beggars have change, and they will charge you for it! So, bring lots of it, and your best smile, and you'll be fully prepared for an experience that is as nice or as nasty as you care to make it. Just like the rest of life, really: they always say you can find all life on a train.

Tim in England, who loves long-distance train travel.
Pro Travel photos at GnomePlanet - Also with Getty Images. Travelling Tim - Lightroom Keywords for Photographers -
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain
#13 Sep 30th, 2006, 03:21
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Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline
Aye Tim. One of my most shameful (nonetheless repeated) experiences was having bought cups of chai and coffee by the bucketful, only to be left with no small change for the excellent traveling musicians and cabaretiers and whatnot coming on board later.

I'll make up for it! I promise!
#14 Sep 30th, 2006, 04:32
Join Date:
Sep 2001
  • steven_ber is offline
EDITED TO ADD...The following thread may also be useful.

A nice meal for a long journey.

Take a copy of the full timetable (in attachment below) so you know how long a train will be at a particular station, notice the 'make-up' time between some stations to help a train arrive on time, (see the timetable in the opposite direction to see how long a train takes between two stations)

Have a good map with you to follow your journey, look at a guidebook to see what it says about each place you're travelling through, it may help you plan your next trip.

With permission, take photos of the kids in your carriage and show them the photos (if digital camera used), have photos of your own home, pets, family etc. on your camera, and show them to others in the carriage.

Download some Bollywood tracks onto your mp3 player and let the kids listen to them. (on my last trip the kids were more excited by the Dixie Chicks, go figure)

Download some Ravi Shanker tunes and listen to them whilst watching the scenery. (especially if you're sitting by an open carriage door.)

You'll be at Allahabad for 30 minutes, take advantage of this, have a little walk around the platform, get some fresh air, it will help you sleep.

Jabalpur for a morning Chai and breakfast, they do a great dish, it's potatoes chopped so small that they almost look like rice, on top of these potatoes they put a kind of crunchy snack (like Bombay mix), it's a great breakfast, also see if you can spot a sign in English, I couldn't when I went there.

Itarsi, An English couple (the Butterfields) used to do tours in a railway carriage, they stopped at Itarsi a few times and met some 'platform children', kids who lived by the railway and tried to exist from monies begged from rail users, the Butterfields set up a rehabilitation centre for the kids, see if you can find any signs that lead to this rehabilitation centre.

Sevagram, Gandhi set up (and lived in) an ashram in Sevagram because it was the centre of India. (when India included Bangladesh and Pakistan).

Chandrapur, wasn't that the name of one of the towns in A Passage To India?
Attached Images
Last edited by steven_ber; Jul 26th, 2007 at 16:06..
#15 Sep 30th, 2006, 04:42
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Feb 2004
  • freenote is offline
Ahhhhhhhhh memories .For me one of the nicest things is sitting in the open doorway of a train at dawn (2nd class sleeper ) ,catching the wind as it flies by ,going through the villages and fields and watching india wake up .Stopped once and these guys strolled out of there village ,up to the train in through the door i was sitting in ,and out through the other side with not a word said .I got the impression that this was a regular routine ,so the train must have been on time then

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